CIFA Vice President Discusses Water Infrastructure Challenges
Facing Oklahoma And The Nation
Mr. Joe Freeman, Right, Testifies Before the EPW Committee
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, today thanked Mr. Joe Freeman, Chief of the Financial Assistance Division of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board, for his testimony before the EPW Committee. Mr. Freeman is the Vice President of the Council of Infrastructure Financing Authorities (CIFA). CIFA is the national organization of state officials involved in the financing of water and wastewater pollution control projects. CIFA members are responsible for management of the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds. Senator Inhofe invited Mr. Freeman to testify before the Subcommittee on Transportation Safety, Infrastructure Security, and Water Quality hearing titled, “Meeting America’s Wastewater Infrastructure Needs in the 21st Century.”
"I was pleased to welcome Mr. Freeman before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee today," Senator Inhofe said. "Mr. Freeman provided the EPW Committee valuable perspective regarding the challenges facing water infrastructure systems in Oklahoma and across the nation. He expressed the importance of the Revolving Loan Fund to Oklahoma’s communities and explained to the Committee the financial benefits municipalities get from using the SRF. He noted that Tulsa, OK will save $59 million over 5 years by using the SRF. He also emphasized the need to maintain a program free of too many extra requirements that make the program too complicated for towns, particularly small towns, to use.
"These issues are important to me because Oklahoma has projected $586 million in clean water related needs over the next 20 years. Further, in the last drinking water needs survey, Oklahoma’s reported needs were $4.8 billion over the next 20 years. Importantly $107 million of that need is known to be a direct result of federal drinking water requirements. Without providing sufficient federal funds to help cities to meet those requirements, they become not just requirements, but federal unfunded mandates.
"As the single most conservative member of the Senate, as voted by the American Conservative Union, I have consistently advocated for developing and improving the nation’s infrastructure and providing for our nation’s defense. That is why, as chairman of this committee during the past two Congresses, I twice moved comprehensive legislation that reauthorized both the clean water and drinking water State Revolving Loan Funds. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Committee to develop a clean, comprehensive funding proposal in the near future.”
Highlights from Mr. Freeman’s EPW Committee Testimony
“While the progress made by States and the Federal government working in partnership to address water quality challenges has been considerable, it is hardly sufficient to meet the overwhelming need. All evidence points to a “Gap” that is large and growing. A survey of state CWSRF programs undertaken by CIFA in 2005 identified over 2,000 projects seeking loans requiring almost $9 billion in funding. In my state the city of Tulsa alone has needs of an estimated $194 million over the next five years. It is clear that at current funding levels a great many needed projects are not going to move forward anytime soon…
“Let me turn to a few specific examples of what is being accomplished in my State of Oklahoma: Since 1999, Oklahoma has made over $324 million available in DWSRF funding. Our DWSRF loan to Bartlesville, used to construct a 26 million gallon per day treatment plant, allowed the city to realize cost savings of almost $14 million, nearly a third of the total project cost. The Lawton Water Authority will experience similar savings as it constructs a water treatment plant with a capacity of 40 million gallons per day. Our largest borrower is the City of Tulsa which is using the CWSRF program to implement a Comprehensive Wastewater Plan to rehabilitate aging infrastructure, meet capacity needs and comply with discharge permit requirements. By using the CWSRF, it is estimated Tulsa will save $59 million over five years. As these projects illustrate, the State Revolving Funds are playing a vital role in helping Oklahoma communities improve water quality…
“We have long sought SRF reauthorization legislation. We feel funding levels and program operations have suffered from the failure to reauthorize the CWSRF and that reauthorization will deliver a strong message that Congress remains committed to the State Revolving Funds. However, we see little benefit from legislation that will hamper our flexibility and burden the communities we serve with barriers to their participation….”